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7 Secrets to Advance Your Career and Expand Your Influence as a Female Leader

What an exciting time to be a female executive and leader!

Never before in the history of business have women had role models of such enormous, public stature. They are CEO’s running some of our largest corporations such as PepsiCo, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo and other notables.

How can you take advantage of this momentum swing for women to advance your career, love your job and expand your influence as a leader? It certainly isn’t by tapping into the old rules of the game. The skills, attitudes, and behaviors that produce career progression have shifted rather dramatically since the 2008 economic downturn. If you do not know the new career game changers, you are going to be left behind.

With all of today’s potential for women, you may wonder: What is happening to me? I have done everything right; I have the right degree; I work hard and yet, I don’t seem to be getting anywhere. How did I end up boxed into a job that no longer stretches my passions?

Although expertise and hard work are essential in business, they only represent the entrance fee to the senior ranks. To succeed you have to understand the key leverage points to achieve recognition and mastery that have your voice being heard as a future leader.

Secret #1: You are responsible for your career development.

THE STATISTICS TELL THE TALE: 

In today’s marketplace, it doesn’t pay to wait patiently and expectantly for your boss or your organization to provide powerful career direction that also taps into your passions and strengths, which is exactly what many women do. Your company is too busy competing in today’s business environment to spend time crafting personalized career pathways for their workforce. Not to mention, no one can know you as well as you know yourself.

Secret #2: Calendar your time and attention to determine your career trajectory.

WHY TAKE THE REINS?

Because:

  • 69 percent of human resource professionals believe that they are not developing their employees.
  • Only 46 percent of those who are employed between the ages of 18 and 34 say they have the education and training necessary to get ahead in their career.
  • 70 percent of U.S. workers do not reach their full potential.
  • Only 27 percent of employees working say they are adequately prepared for the kind of job they want.
  • Only 10% of a corporation’s working population is considered high-potential employees (These are the executives who are provided with mentors, career pathways for future influence and receive much of the corporate leadership learning and development budgets).

Now, can you see why you are the only one able to attain a long-term, viable future for yourself? And it is not enough to continually improve your technical knowledge and skill sets. You must evolve your development thinking to include higher level leadership attributes. This course of action is how your feminine career power and influence will emerge to have you pegged as one of the 10 percenters of high-potentials in your company.

SOMETIMES YOU ARE HOLDING YOURSELF SMALL:

Is there a little voice in your head whispering: No, you are wrong. It is producing on time and under budget that will move my career forward.

You are not alone. The Center of Work-Life Policy reports: “More than three-quarters of the woman we surveyed perceived promotions at their firm to be a function of hard work, long hours, and strong credentials. They’re convinced that if they work manically hard to hit targets and meet deadlines, someone senior will eventually acknowledge their hard work and reward their sacrifice with a promotion. But if nearly forty years of stalled-out female talent are any indication, this strategy doesn’t work.”

There is no question that production is the key to the much-coveted getting noticed and rewarded early in your career—it’s just no longer the name of the game from mid-management and above. Now those hard-won skills and attitudes that earned you praise at the early stages of your career can work against you later, that is, if you intend to expand and advance into higher levels.

Secret #3: Exclusively concentrating your attention on the execution and production side of the business will not aid you in getting where you want to go.

SET YOURSELF APART:

With 70% of the United States workforce actively disengaged, it requires more than skills alone to come alive and love your job. It requires you tapping into your passions and strengths to drive your career forward. Simply identifying your strengths has you becoming 17 percent more productive.

It is you taking the reins of your career. It is you expanding your comfort zone. It is you strategically determining who you want to be. It is you courageously asking for what you want. It is not exclusively relying on others. It is you owning the future of who you choose to be. Your goal is to locate the intersection point between where your interests, strengths, passions and your company’s bottom-line interests align and then make it happen.

Secret #4: Look at your job from the eyes of an innovative, relevant business owner and leader.

Future leaders do this by not only orchestrating their careers they also take steps to improve their small slice of the world. As a result of demonstrating your competencies as well as your added-value viewpoint, you are tapped for a wider array of business experiences.

THE POWER OF PROACTIVE RELATIONSHIPS:

There is little doubt by those who have made it to the top that strategic relationships become proportionately more important the higher you go in the organization. It’s just too tough to navigate the ranks of corporations today without these key partners in place.

Secret #5: Create strategic relationships without delay. Ask yourself: Who do I know? Or better yet: Who should I know?

Women often diminish or negate this concept, which is ironic as most are natural relationship-builders. That is good news! The snag is that women sometimes run amuck when it comes to developing strategic, targeted relationships. Women have an inherent need for respect, trust and receiving enjoyment in a relationship—even in business. Because of this fundamental requirement, women often hold themselves aloof in business relationships to their detriment. When there is no emotional connectivity, women interpret such relationships as phony and false—not something any woman wants.

Secret #6: Get comfortable and accept less emotional connectivity in business relations.

Perhaps you are still doubting the validity of relationships being the make or break tactic for a successful career. Think again. The evidence tells us a different story. The Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) did a study which ascertained that: “Fully 70 percent of sponsored men and 68 percent of sponsored women feel they are progressing through the ranks at a satisfactory pace, compared to 57 percent of their unsponsored peers. That translates into a ‘sponsor effect’ of 23 percent for men and 19 percent for women. CTI research shows that sponsors affect women’s career trajectory even more profoundly than men’s in at least one respect: 85 percent of mothers (employed full-time) who have sponsors stay in the game, compared to only 58 percent of those going it alone. That’s a sponsor effect of 27 percent.”

And when you start proactively building relationships, don’t think too low in the organization. According to a Harvard Business Review paper, Why Men Still Get More Promotions than Women, this is because men are more likely to be mentored by senior executives, whereas women are more likely to have junior-level mentors.

Secret #7: As you are building your network of mentors look up…. Way up in your organization!

These seven secrets, when practiced, will up that ante on your career progression opportunities exponentially. Not only that, a real upside to owning your development is that as you feel more in control of your career typically you are happier and more successful. What better outcome can you ask for yourself?

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